Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Is it “brilliant” to accumulate $185,000 of debt studying the humanities?

From the Des Moines Register, an article by Ms. Rehha Basu.

Excerpt:

Sixteen years ago, Patricia (P.J.) Johnston of Des Moines made the front page of this paper for collecting her diploma from Drake University at just 19. “Johnston was reading books on French existentialism while others her age were still buying comic books,” wrote reporter Tom Alex of the young woman who majored in religion and philosophy, dabbled in music and astronomy and found time to take part in online discussions on the Bible.

“I think I’m probably meant to be an academic,” Johnston was quoted as saying. And she has been, getting a master’s in one institution, going to seminary at another, doing field research in India in her area of interest — Indian Catholicism — and currently working toward a Ph.D in religious studies at the University of Iowa.

President Barack Obama came through Johnston’s university on Wednesday, where he said there is no greater predictor of success than a good education. “This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of everybody who’s willing to work for it,” Obama said. “That’s part of what made us special. … That’s a commitment that we need to reaffirm today.”

He talked about the untenable debt that’s limiting options for today’s college-goers — $25,000 on average — because tuition and fees have more than doubled since they were born.

Johnston didn’t get to hear him since she was teaching a class on Buddhism. But she knows a lot about educational debt. She has $185,000 in student loans to repay.

As it is, she sleeps on her office floor on the days she has to be in Iowa City, riding the Greyhound bus in from Des Moines. She helps support her mother with the approximately $16,000 she earns as a teaching assistant. But she is in danger of dropping out before getting her doctorate because she has hit her limit on loans, and most likely won’t be able to get a teaching assistant position next year because of cuts in undergraduate programs.

If that happens, she wrote me, she would be this far along, “facing the job market in my mid-30s with no marketable job skills of any kind.”

Johnston grew up on welfare and other forms of public assistance. Her divorced mother was unable to hold down a job for reasons that were never diagnosed. Johnston got through college with scholarships, grants, some help from her late grandmother, and only $18,000 in debt.

Student loans should not be connected to the government as they are now – they should be privatized. That way, taxpayers are not stuck with the bill if the person cannot make a career out of what they are studing. What is this person doing going abroad in India? What is she doing riding on Grayhounds? It makes no sense. If she had to go to a for-profit bank, then she would never get a student loan, because they know they would never get the money back. We have to have a system where people pay their own way, so that they can’t take risks with anyone else’s money but their own (or their loan guarantor’s). No taxpayer money should be available to them, and no taxpayer money should be given to subsidize universities, either – it just raises the cost of tuition. Once the number of students applying to the humanities is reduced because no loans are available, then tuition will come down for those who really intend to make a go of it.

I think a lot of the problem here comes from growing up without a father. Fathers teach their children to be practical because they worry more than mothers about the children not being able to be independent and fend for themselves.

UPDATE: The Captain comments on this story here.

UPDATE: This is from the woman’s Facebook page:

I have never asked anybody to pay my student loan debt for me, and I will pay it down someday, even if I have to eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life. I was willing to undertake my studies at any cost and at any degree of personal risk because I believe in God and I am convinced that I am doing what God is calling me to do. If you read the New Testament, you will find a great deal about how people are called to give up everything they own – houses and wealth and family and respectibility and everything else – to do whatever it is that God calls them to do. I am not brave and no longer optimistic, but I have tried to take God at his word.

I am not financing education entirely through student loan debt. I held work study jobs as an undergraduate, and have usually held some kind of on-campus employment. I have been a TA for the university for the last seven years. The fact is, government support of higher education is down and the cost of tuition has outpaced salaries to such a great degree in this country that virtually nobody is able to afford an education on their own wages without taking on a substantial burden of student loan debt. The vast majority of the anecdotes to the contrary concern degrees earned twenty or thirty years ago, before major structural changes in the financing of higher education – in the post-war years, government funding allowed the vast majority of expense for education to be met through Pell grants and scholarships, making it possible for many people to work themselves through school. That hasn’t been possible for most people in most degree programs for at least thirty years, and these nostalgic memories of an entirely different time and set of circumstances are not doing the debate on higher education financing in this country any good at all.

I am not a “professional student” nor am I taking an especially long time to pursue my degree – this is simply how long humanities education takes. http://chronicle.com/article/In-Humanities-10-Years-May/16231

If you only see value in STEM disciplines, I probably will not convince you that humanities education is valuable. There used to be a sense in this country that certain things had value and meaning in their own right, not simply because they produced nice technological gadgets or made bundles of money for businesses. Even conservatives such as Allan Bloom used to realize that it impoverishes us spiritually when we turn away from the humanities, the cultural legacy of Western society. Would that their political descendants had as much grace or wisdom.

She’s not being forced into this course of action. She’s choosing it deliberately, and she wants other people to pay to make her impractical flight from reality financially sound.

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Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law gets $737M of taxpayers’ money to build solar plant

From the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Nancy Pelosi is facing accusations of cronyism after a solar energy project, which her brother-in-law has a stake in, landed a $737 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, despite the growing Solyndra scandal.

The massive loan agreement is raising new concerns about the use of taxpayers’ money as vast sums are invested in technology similar to that of the doomed energy project.

The investment has intensified the debate over the effectiveness of solar energy as a major power source.

The SolarReserve project is backed by an energy investment fund where the Minority Leader’s brother-in-law Ronald Pelosi is second in command.

PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (East) LLC is listed as one of the investors in the project that has been given the staggering loan, which even dwarfs that given to failed company Solyndra.

Other investors include one of the major investors in Solyndra, which is run by one of the directors of Solyndra.

Steve Mitchell, who served on the board of directors at the bankrupt energy company, is also managing director of Argonaut Private Equity, which has invested in the latest project.

Since Solyndra has filed for bankruptcy has been asked to testify about the goings on at the firm by two members of the House and ‘asked to provide documents to Congress’.

[…]The project approval came as part of $1 billion in new loans to green energy companies yesterday.

Did they learn anything from Solyndra? No:

‘The administration’s flagship project Solyndra is bankrupt and being investigated by the FBI, the promised jobs never materialised, and now the Department of Energy is preparing to rush out nearly $5 billion in loans in the final 48 hours before stimulus funds expire — that’s nearly $105 million every hour that must be finalised until the deadline,’ said Florida representative Cliff Stearns, who is chairman of the investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Since Nancy Pelosi took over federal spending in January 2007, the national debt has increased from $8.5 trillion to about $17.5 trillion. That’s NINE TRILLION dollars in new spending. And much of it just handed off to the people and groups who got the Democrats elected 2008 and 2012.

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New study: premiums for young people to rise in all 50 states under Obamacare

The Washington Free Beacon reports on a new study.

Excerpt:

Health insurance premiums for young people will rise in all 50 states under Obamacare, with an average increase of 260 percent, according to a study released Thursday.

The young and healthy segment of the uninsured is considered crucial for the Affordable Care Act to succeed. Former President Bill Clinton suggested last week that Obamacare only works “if young people show up.”

However, an analysis of premiums both before and after the implementation of Obamacare shows that 18- to 35-year-olds are likely to opt out of high rates in the exchanges in favor of cheaper penalties for not having insurance.

According to a study released by the American Action Forum, post-Obamacare premiums will average $187.08 per month, up from $62 per month in 2013, a 202 percent increase.  Overall, states averaged an increase of 260 percent.

Forty-four out of 50 states saw a three-digit percent increase, and in Vermont the cheapest available premium for a 30 year-old male nonsmoker will increase by $332.69, or 600 percent.

[…]Massachusetts had the lowest increase at 9 percent, though the state is considered an “outlier” since it already had similar health care reforms put in place under former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

“[T]hat state’s insurance market has been subject to ACA-like reforms since 2006, bloating the premium for the lowest-cost pre-ACA policy to nearly $214, making it the highest of the 2013 premiums analyzed in this study,” the report said.

But what about the subsidies, won’t they help cover the cost of all the free condoms and birth control pills and abortion drugs?

No:

Given the high costs of the premiums, the study predicts that even with subsidies, most of the young uninsured will opt to pay the penalty rather than sign up for health care.

Individuals between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for subsidies under the law.

Only those who earn up to 133 percent of the poverty line will have a financial incentive to join the health exchange.  An individual with an income of $15,281.70 would receive a subsidy to cover 100 percent of their health care premiums.

Moving up the income bracket creates disincentives for the young to enroll.  Those making $20,107.50, or 175 percent of the poverty line, will still face a $449 premium, which is three times higher than the penalty they would incur in 2014 ($103.57) if they did not purchase insurance.

An individual earning $37,342.50 will receive no subsidy at all and will face a minimum premium of $2,839, as opposed to a $275.92 penalty in 2014.

I’m pretty sure that most people who get jobs out of college will make more than $37,342.50. Petroleum engineers start at around double that income.

So, I’m thinking that the young people – especially college-educated people with jobs – shouldn’t have voted for Obama. Do you think that their teachers and professors explained to them what would happen to them if they voted for Obama? I think not. I think that their teachers and professors wanted their little wide-eyed charges to vote for more funding of education, with no performance checking, so that they could be paid more money. And the children believed their teachers and voted accordingly. This is a particularly bad deal for bright young men – the kind you might expect to be interested in marriage. Now not only have they inherited massive amounts of debt and a crappy socialist economy with no jobs, but they are being forced to buy expensive health care coverage that they don’t need and won’t use. Why? To subsidize the health care claims made by women and the elderly, who use more health care products and services.

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Obama violates his own stimulus law by refusing to release status reports

The Weekly Standard reports.

Excerpt:

Have you heard much about President Obama’s $787,000,000,000 economic “stimulus” (now estimated to cost $831,000,000,000) lately?  In its last report, published in 2011, the president’s own Council of Economic Advisors released an estimate showing that, for every $317,000 in “stimulus” spending that had by then gone out the door, only one job had been created or saved.  Even in Washington, that’s not considered good bang for the buck.

Moreover, that was the fifth consecutive “stimulus” report that showed this number getting progressively worse.

Alas, that was the last report we’ve seen.  Never mind that Section 1513 of the “stimulus” legislation, which Obama spearheaded and signed into law, requires the executive branch to submit a new report every three months.  It reads:

“In consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers shall submit quarterly reports to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and House of Representatives that detail the impact of programs funded through covered funds on employment, estimated economic growth, and other key economic indicators.”

[…]By now, [the Obama administration] was supposed to have released fourteen such reports.  It has released only eight.  The last one covered the period ending in June 2011.  That’s right — 2011.

With only 58.6 percent of Americans currently employed — down 2.4 percent from the time of Obama’s first inauguration — it’s not surprising that the Obama administration doesn’t really want to fulfill it legal responsibilities and release subsequent reports on its failed “stimulus.”  However, it hardly seems fair — to use one of Obama’s favorite words — that the rich and (extremely) powerful think that they can choose whether or not to abide by the laws they spearhead and sign, while the rest of us are forced to obey them.

I’m not surprised by this, because we all know that Democrats are the biggest tax cheats ever. It’s not surprising to me that they pass laws that they have no intention of following themselves, because they are hypocrites. The laws are meant to stop others from succeeding, but Democrats themselves always seem to be exempt. Just like the waivers that the big labor unions got from Obamacare. Poverty for thee, but not for me.\

Related posts

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New survey finds that university professors are moving further to the left

From the Inside Higher Ed.

Excerpt:

Academics, on average, lean to the left. A survey being released today suggests that they are moving even more in that direction.

Among full-time faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, the percentage identifying as “far left” or liberal has increased notably in the last three years, while the percentage identifying in three other political categories has declined. The data come from the University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute, which surveys faculty members nationwide every three years on a range of attitudes.

Here are the data for the new survey and the prior survey:

2010-11 2007-8
Far left 12.4% 8.8%
Liberal 50.3% 47.0%
Middle of the road 25.4% 28.4%
Conservative 11.5% 15.2%
Far right 0.4% 0.7%

Gauging how gradual or abrupt this shift is is complicated because of changes in the UCLA survey’s methodology; before 2007-8, the survey included community college faculty members, who have been excluded since. But for those years, examining only four-year college and university faculty members, the numbers are similar to those of 2007-8. Going back further, one can see an evolution away from the center.

In the 1998-9 survey, more than 35 percent of faculty members identified themselves as middle of the road, and less than half (47.5 percent) identified as liberal or far left. In the new data, 62.7 percent identify as liberal or far left. (Most surveys that have included community college faculty members have found them to inhabit political space to the right of faculty members at four-year institutions.)

Professors are extremely liberal, especially in non-quantitative, non-scientific departments like English. It’s much harder to be liberal in academic areas where there is some connection to the real world that can be tested, like economics, business and computer science. Liberal bias is something to look out for if you go on to higher education. What you’ll find there is that there is often a lack of critical thinking on many topics. The left isn’t welcoming of other points of view. Their side doesn’t read our stuff, but we read their stuff. They think we’re evil, and we just think they’re wrong.

Here’s my previous post surveying several academic studies of liberal bias in the mainstream media.

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